A Little Leaven, A Lotta Heaven

“The kingdom of God is within you.” –Jesus, as quoted in Luke 17:21 NKJV

Friday night at our house is-pizza-and-a-movie night. It began when the youngest left for college, and my husband and I ate out at a local pizzeria. Eventually our date night morphed into dining on frozen pizza at home. After a while frozen pizza lost its appeal, and I rooted around in my recipe box and retrieved my old pizza dough recipe.

Years ago I learned the secret of making good pizza dough. It’s in the kneading. First I dissolve the yeast in warm water. Warm, not hot, because hot will kill the yeast. Then I add the sugar, salt, and oil, mixing it well so the yeast, sugar, and salt dissolve. Then I add about half the flour, mixing it with a wooden spoon until it’s just past the gooey stage.

Then I knead in the rest of the flour by one-half cupfuls—and I don’t pay attention to the recipe! I pay attention to the dough. I’m done adding flour when the dough is just past being sticky, soft like a baby’s behind, and springs back when I lightly indent it with my finger. I rarely use all the flour the recipe calls for.

Now, you’re asking, what does this have to do with the kingdom of heaven? Everything. You see, Jesus spent a lot of time teaching the people about the kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of God, using analogies of things they understood so they would grasp what He was trying to tell them.

“The kingdom of heaven,” He said once, “is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough” (Matthew 13:33 GW). The kingdom of heaven is like yeast.

The older versions use the word “leaven.” Leaven, according to my trusty Webster’s, is “any influence spreading through something and working on it to bring a gradual change.” In bread dough, the leaven causes it to rise and gives it a delectable flavor. Ever eat bread that failed to rise? It’s useless, isn’t it? Fit only for the trashcan.

In this world, the leaven is the kingdom of heaven, or the rule of God over all who accept and submit to Him (see John 3:3,5). In each believer, the leaven is the words of the Master, found in Scripture, that gradually spread through our minds and hearts, transforming us, transforming our lives, ever so gradually.

First, though, the leaven must be added carefully then worked through the dough of our lives. Just like bread dough, the secret is in the kneading. Ever knead dough? It takes time and patience—and just the right touch—not too heavy and not too light.

God is the one who kneads His Word through our lives. If you’re dough being kneaded, though, it doesn’t feel too good to be twisted and turned and folded and pushed and pulled. But the Master knows what He’s doing. He’s not following a recipe because we are individual lumps, each needing a different touch, a different amount of flour to be added, and a different amount of kneading time. The Master works us until we’re pliable, soft, resilient—not too sticky or gooey and not too dry or tough. Then He sets us aside for a while for the leaven to do its work.

But we’re still not ready. Like bread dough, we must be punched down, worked again, shaped, and left alone, covered with a soft cloth, so that the leaven can finish its work. It’s a long process.

Child of God, are you being kneaded? Don’t despair. Just remember—a little bit of leaven, worked just right into the dough of your soul, means a whole a lot of heaven.

Dear God, thank You for kneading me in the way I need to be kneaded. Amen.

Read and reflect on Matthew 13:33 and Luke 17:20–21.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea, Vol. 3 © 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Photo courtesy of ABSFreePic.com.

Bearing Fruit

Image courtesy of rakratchada torso at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of rakratchada torso at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. – Galatians 5:22–23 (NIV)

At the age of 20 Benjamin Franklin created a system for developing in his character 13 virtues: temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility. (See note below for Franklin’s description of these virtues.)

He focused on one virtue each week, marking his progress on a chart in a little book he carried with him. At the end of each day he’d put a dot next to the virtue for each fault committed that day with respect to that virtue. After 13 weeks he’d start all over again, completing the course a total of 4 times in one year.

His goal, of course, was to conduct himself in such a way he wouldn’t have to put any marks on his chart. Imagine his dismay when he saw more than he wanted.

I can identify with Ben and his need to organize and schedule and chart. I can’t live without my lists. In fact, I schedule my week using an Excel document on my computer and refer to it often throughout the day. There’s something satisfying about crossing out items as I complete them.

Call me OCD.

So Ben Franklin’s chart of virtues intrigued me—even tempted me to try this on my own.

But I know me. I didn’t want to have to face all those dots at the end of the day.

But not to worry.

My character is being developed anyway—by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

You see, God too has a list of virtues He wants to develop in our characters. They’re called “The Fruit of the Spirit.”

Think of a fruit tree. What does the tree do to produce the fruit?

Nothing.

Really.

It produces fruit not because of what it does but because of what it is.

So it is with us. We don’t produce the Fruit of the Spirit because of what we do, but because of what we are.

13-virtues-chartThat sure takes a lot of pressure off, doesn’t it?

So why do we still think we can develop these virtues on our own?

In Galatians 5:16–25, the apostle Paul describes two approaches to life: doing things (or trying to) on our own strength or allowing the Holy Spirit, who indwells every believer, to work in and through us.

We’re a much too independent society—we think we can do anything and everything on our own.

The problem is we can’t.

When we try to develop the fruit (which is singular, by the way, not plural—think of an orange, one fruit with many segments) on our own, we’ll only meet with failure.

But when we submit to and allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us, He develops this fruit in us. We mature as believers.

What about you? Are you feeling frustrated because you don’t see the Fruit of the Spirit in your character—because you’re trying to mature on your own?

Think of the fruit tree and remember—you don’t produce fruit because of what you do, but because of what you are—a beloved, chosen child of God in whom His Spirit dwells.

Remind me, Lord, that I can do nothing on my own strength, but everything through yours (Philippians 4:13). Amen.

Extra tea: Read and meditate on Galatians 5:16–25

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues:

1. Temperance: Eat not to dullness and drink not to elevation.

2. Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation.

3. Order: Let all your things have their places. Let each part of your business have its time.

4. Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.

5. Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself: i.e. Waste nothing.

6. Industry: Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary actions.

7. Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit. Think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

8. Justice: Wrong none, by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

9. Moderation: Avoid extremes. Forebear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

10. Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanness in body, clothes or habitation.

11. Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring; Never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.

12. Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

13. Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

SOURCE: http://www.flamebright.com/PTPages/Benjamin.asp Ben Franklin’s 13 virtues